There's so much to report back from my adults only Disney trip that I am going to break it down into 5 posts: Overviews 1 & 2, Food & Drinks 1 & 2, and Reflections. I am going to start with a general overview of our trip to give you a good sense of what we did, what we loved and what we didn't, and how we will plan going forward. There is a lot to cover so let's break it down by day.
I would like to be brutally honest and say that my anxiety levels going into this trip were extremely high. At first I was afraid to travel in a pandemic that isn't quite over, but knowing that I have had three pfizer shots that really wasn't the source. It wasn going out into the world for the first time in a year and a half. Once we landed, all was well. Having arrived at baggage claim with my MVP People Mover driver, Shane, waiting for me with a sign with my name was such a welcoming moment my fears began to melt into excitement. Shane put our bags in a Luxury SUV, took us to our resort at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House where we left our luggage with Bell Services then hopped back in the car to head to Disney Springs for dinner. Reach out to me if you'd like to use this car service, especially once the Magical Express stops in 2022.
If you have never made Disney Springs part of your vacation, you should. It's full of great sit down restaurants like Boathouse, Homecoming, Jaleo, plus there are excellent counter service like Chicken Guy and Polite Pig. You can find Goofy's Candy Shop and Giddeons famous bakery. There are stores like the Lego Store, World of Disney, and a Christmas shop. Soon Cirque Du Soleil will open it's new show Drawn to Life and there is even a bowling alley and movie theater. We had a fabulous dinner at Wine Bar George, that was opened by the chef behind the famous California Grill in Contemporary. The wine is is the most extensive list at Disney and the food was very shareable. Review of the food we ate will come later. Afterwards we got cocktails at Jack Lindsey's Hanger Bar. It's modeled after the pilot in Indiana Jones. Getting back to Jambo house was easy with the buses running quite late at Disney Springs.
There was no need to get up early as Epcot doesn't open until 11 AM and we really wanted to spend our first morning there. Unfortunately I popped out of bed at 7 AM anyway. My biggest disappointment with the trip was mobile ordering at Jambo House's quick service, The Mara. It was far from quick. You had to mobile order and you had to do it a half hour out. There was one cast member doing traditional ordering but it was far from quick. Eventually I got my coffee and went looking for a quiet place to drink it and see animals and was disappointed I couldn't find one. I should note that they existed I just couldn't find them.
We headed to the park early, knowing that it would one, open around 10:30 AM and not the official time of 11 AM. This is pretty standard practice that is not advertised and can essentially make you late if you show up at 11 AM. Two, we needed to buy our Annual Passes so we can visit multiple times this year to make up for 2020. It was not a quick process due to the park reservation system but a cast member took her time and worked it out.
We headed straight to the food and wine booths, took some pictures and ate till we couldn't any more. This is where my plan got thrown out the door. We could not eat as much as we thought in time allotments I had set. It was also considerably busier than anticipated, and hotter than we had hoped. We ended up spending a good bit of time inside the pyramid in the Mexico pavilion. I was unaware of how many thing there were to do in there. From the tequila bar, The San Angel Inn restaurant, to the shops, and the Grand Fiesta Tour ride. We found many ways to entertain ourselves in the cool air conditioned structure.
We emerged, had some more food and drinks then headed to our favorite ride in EPCOT, Soarin. This ride simulates hangliding over a dozen or so natural and man made landmarks. Ride times were a little funny throughout our whole trip. Usually the My Disney Experience (MDE) ride times are overestimated and the Touring Plans app are underestimated. In this case I fault neither as I believe they were changing faster than either app could keep up with. It was a solid 10 mins in either direction. Soarin was overestimated by 10 mins and Frozen was underestimated by 10 mins. Space Mountain was more like 30 mins under and we almost missed a dining reservation.
After Soarin, we took the Monorail to the Magic Kingdom and it was smooth sailing and not over crowded. Food and Wine was clearly where all the action was that day. That said, Magic Kingdom always feels busy even at a level 2 or 1. Where as Epcot at a 6 feels manageable. We spent the first 20 minutes taking pictures, some with Disney's Photopass for our own keepsakes and pictures of ourselves I can use promotionally. Let me give you some advice about both. If you get on Pintrest you can find dozens of blog posts on how to take pictures without people in the background. Where as Photopass locations as usually smack dab in the thick of it and dozens of people will be behind you. Or worse just one lady with a stroller ruining an almost perfect picture.
You will also find people who did not pay for Photopass who are trying to take the same picture and this often results in a screaming match about who has the right to the best shot. Please don't get upset with the cast member as they can not control any of that. We were extremely polite to one cast member who was the victim of angry picture takers and as a result she spent more time with us trying to get a better shot. Kindness matters folks.
Our first order of business was to ride Splash Mountain. We had promised Scarlett to video tape me getting soaked on that final splash down. If you're friends with me on Facebook you'll find that footage. When we got off we found the weather to be quite ominous and headed for an indoor attraction, Space Mountain. We weren't the only ones who had this idea and the wait time was posted as 30 min but actually took an 50 mins. Fun was had and everyone wore their mask. It was fairly rare to see someone not wearing it or wearing a neck gaiter or some other non-approved mask and cast members got on it very quickly.
We had dinner at our favorite Magic Kingdom table service restaurant, Jungle Navigation Co Skipper Canteen. We were so full from Food & Wine still that we only had appetizers. We also wanted to fit in a stop to Aloha Isle. Food reviews still to come. It started to rain again so we hopped over to Pirates of the Caribbean to wait out the rain. Rain at Disney is rarely a bad thing. People tend to leave the park not knowing storms don't last long in Florida. Get a poncho or an umbrella and waterproof shoes and you'll be fine. Sure enough, when we returned to EPCOT quite a few people high tailed it out of there making it a wee bit better for a bit and then a night time crowd, I assume locals, showed up and we waited 30 plus minutes at the France booth.
I want to take a minute to talk about Pixie Dust. Pixie dust is what people call extra experiences at Disney World. I've always believed that it's actually quite rare. Once someone cut in front of us at the Confectionary at Magic Kingdom and a cast member gave us a free cookie. This experience led me to believe it happens when something bad happens to you. But that was a false assumption. I believe now she gave us the cookie because of how we handled it.
Before I mentioned the photographer who spend more time with us. This was likely because we apologized for the behavior of others. I got some advice from a podcast I listen to with Jody Mayberry and Dan Cockril, who is the former vice president of the Magic Kingdom. He didn't discuss pixie dust but he informed me as a travel agent to prepare my clients for a less smooth vacation due to understaffing and other pandemic related issues. This got me thinking that I needed to treat flight attendants, cast members, waiters with the utmost kindness and I was repaid for that kindness 10 fold. That kindness led to an unprecedented amount of pixie dust. From free stuff to more time and energy from cast members, but most importantly their kindness and gratitude was reward enough most times. Use peoples names, ask them how they are, compliment their hair. Treat people the way you want to be treated and you will not regret it.
Finally I will leave you with my review of the current fireworks show at EPCOT. It's kind of lame. It was a temporary solution while they moved the old show's equipment out of the lagoon and the new show's equipment in. It feels like an afterthought, but the new equipment looks very exciting and the new show starts on October 1. We left before it finished, snapped some last pictures in front of the lit up ball and hopped on the bus. I'll cover the busses in my next post and leave you with us collapsing into our beds.